Big 12 report emphasizes need for centralized Title IX database; analysis of the Social Climate Survey

According to the verification report from the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors, "56 percent of Baylor students have experienced sexual harassment by a faculty member." The correct percentage was actually 17, according to a statement released by Baylor. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Madison Day | Assistant News Editor

Baylor’s Title IX staff has expressed concern over the past several years about the lack of a centralized case management database for reports that come into their office, according to the verification report from the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors that was released on Oct. 30.

Currently, Baylor’s Title IX office uses shared drives, Excel tracking and the online platform Symplicity to organize their case information. With these separate platforms, the report found that it is difficult to easily document all of the information without duplication. Mark Mastin, Baylor’s senior director of Cloud Technology Services, said these systems “don’t talk to each other” — meaning they are not connected, the report said.

A centralized case management database is an industry-wide practice and helps to access cases with ease and organization, according to the report.

The report said this centralized reporting system would give Baylor the ability to audit cases and review trends with Title IX and Clery cases in a more streamlined manner and would allow for cross-referencing of student information — including prior reports and housing and academic information. All cases reported to the office would go through this database once implemented.

Previous Title IX coordinators have expressed concern for the need for this unified system, and one is currently in the works, according to Jason Cook, vice president for marketing and communications and the chief marketing officer at Baylor. The Big 12 also acknowledged this in its report. Cook said weekly meetings take place to discuss the future of this system.

“The Big 12 did acknowledge that we are sharing information and working together in face-to-face case management meetings that happen on a weekly basis. So, even though the full software system isn’t integrated yet, that sharing of information is happening on a face-to-face basis,” Cook said.

As new Title IX coordinator Dr. Laura Johnson was hired in August, Baylor thought it was important to have her input on the conversations related to this database, Cook said. The hope is that this system will interconnect several departments on campus and make communication easier.

“There is no software system that is going to be perfect in every way. So what we’re looking for is a system that will allow the full integration of not only the Title IX department, but also with the police department, student conduct and other areas across campus. This is certainly a priority for us,” Cook said.

This system is expected to be up and running within the next couple of months and vendor presentations will take place the week of Nov. 26 to determine what company will be creating this software.

“Once running, this system is something that will be invisible to students — it’s another tool that we will have to share information across the different groups on campus that have responsibility for student safety and security,” Cook said.


Social Climate Survey

The Social Climate Survey results came out in November of 2017 and focused on “harassment, stalking, dating and sexual violence, and overall campus climate.”

The survey was sent to 15,754 undergraduate and graduate students and was offered from Jan. 31, 2017 to March 13, 2017. The survey garnered 4,523 respondents — a 28.7 percent response rate — which, according to the report, is above the national average.

The Big 12’s report contained an incorrect fact stating that the “Climate Survey results indicated that 56 percent of Baylor students have experienced sexual harassment by a faculty member that involved sexist or sexually offensive language, gestures, or pictures.” The correct statement is that 17 percent of students who responded to the survey stated they have experienced some form of sexual harassment from a faculty member, according to a statement released by Baylor.

This 17 percent accounts for 769 students.

Baylor University released a statement informing the public and the Big 12 of this mistake it made when reporting to the Big 12 on the verification process.

“During the verification process, Baylor provided the Big 12 with a summary list of accomplishments and activities following the University’s 2017 climate survey that failed to summarize the survey results completely and accurately. This summary list was subsequently included in the Big 12 report released yesterday [Oct. 30] on page 43. Baylor has been in contact with the Big 12 to communicate the accurate number of 17 percent of respondents,” the statement said.

Overall, 4,523 students responded to this climate survey. Of those people, 76 percent of participants indicated that they feel safe from sexual harassment on and around campus, Cook said.

“When it comes to overall campus safety, a significant number of our students indicated that they feel safe, and when they asked about their feelings of safety on or around this campus, a large majority — 76 percent of participants — either strongly agreed or agreed that they feel safe from sexual harassment,” Cook said.

Thirty-one percent of students that responded to that question said they experienced sexual harassment in the form of sexist gender harassment — this refers to “everything from being treated differently because of their sex or even comments on someone’s clothing looking nice, for example,” Cook said.

“That number 56 percent was provided by Baylor, and unfortunately it didn’t give the full descriptor of what that number represented. It was a disturbing headline for us to read, but it was not reflective of the survey results found,” Cook said.

This report from the Big 12 was acknowledging the fact that Baylor had completed the 105 Pepper Hamilton recommendations from Big 12 in response to Baylor’s past sexual violence and Title IX issues on campus.

“This was a significant point in Baylor’s response to past issues of sexual violence and interpersonal violence on our campus. This is now the second external verification that the university has received that indicates that we’ve completed and implemented these 105 recommendations. This is an external recognition that what we have done is what we said we were going to do,” Cook said.

Ultimately, the Big 12 fined Baylor $2 million dollars for “reputational damage to the Conference and its members,” the Big 12 website says. Cook said that this fine is not anticipated to negatively affect the Baylor Athletic Department.

According to Cook, Baylor is working every day to ensure the safety and security of their students. Although much smaller than 56 percent, Baylor knows that 17 percent of students having experienced a form of sexual harassment from a faculty member is still too many, Cook said, and they are working to eliminate this problem from campus.

“The first step is to have awareness that there are students who feel unsafe on campus. That’s an indication that we need to provide training and education in this area. Every single faculty member and every single staff member undergoes an annual Title IX training, and we are looking to develop additional educational efforts on this issue,” Cook said.